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EAST ARCHITECTS


Introduction

EAST In-between House

East House

Connection House

Fusion

Trop I

Trop II

ARCHITECTS Trop III (East V)

Open I

Open II

2


0

FOREWORD Is the search for a regional style of architecture a spent force? Where does the search for an enduring and critical regional style stand amid the current mania for trends driven by market forces. With cities becoming increasingly thought of in terms of global branding; to remake them into places with the cachet to attract transnational funds, global tourism (think “Bilbao Effect”) and the brightest nomadic talents, the “it-ness” that Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and other marquee names is a big draw. These conceptual icons have immense appeal to the mass media and the international audience. In Bangkok, there is the audacious OMA-designed Mahanakhon Tower which with its pixels of decay will be a sight to behold when it is completed. The startling novelty and the headline grabbing formal play of such works come from formidable talents. But as Robert Adams writes: “their work is almost by necessity strongly conceptual and cannot rely on any detailed study of fine grain or culture of the locality. Indeed, as it is the intention that the building should be an iconic global product, local distinctiveness is often not a desirable characteristic”

INTRODUCTION The well-heeled with the means can trot their bags to the Taj Tashi in Bhutan to be ensconced in a faux dzong fortress. The resort promises an elegant transport into an exotic environment where among other icons, Buddhist mandalas are scrubbed clean of their religious functions to serve as a décor resource. Such a brand of architecture which seeks to transform in small steps vernacular styles is at polar opposite to the hypermodern approach of starchitecture. This redux of traditonal styles, imagery and iconography sells sentimentality and the quaint. Gunned at money, the approach is as opportunistic as signing a marquee name for a downtown tower. The Taj Tashi is but one example. And this is not a recent development. In the 80s, the Amandari trail-blazed the packaging of the Bali mystique for the modern day traveller in search of consuming cultural environments that are alternatives to streamlined modernity. Vernacular traditions serve as exotica to be mined. Old styles are resurrected and co-opted into the marketplace as experiences to be consumed. The quaint is romanticized. These sanitised settings lure tourists hungry for different albeit superficial experiences; experiences that come with pretty local craftsmanship, reinterpreted local food in a stylish restaurant, spa treatments with local-infused lotions and wraps, etc. It is la dolce vita, a winning formula that gives a sweet taste of style and form, without the messiness of content. With the luxury resorts as taste leaders, there is bound to be some trickle down effect. Lock, stock and barrel, the alluring Bali-style resort architecture was transplanted (especially popular in the 80s) into houses in foreign settings (eg. Singapore). These houses exist as seductive stage sets on which the good life can be played out, to prolong the vacation fantasies of the cosmopolitan owners. In a post-modern milieu characterised by the fracture between form and content, this poses little dilemma. Everything can be commodified. Everything can be readily reduced into an image, a lifestyle. Lifestyle determines architectural style. A Balinese split gate can be easily freighted to decorate a house. At a point when the International Style of architecture was attacked for its blandness, the romance of the past presents a sexy “otherness”.


Introduction

2007 - 2014

East House

EAST ARCHITECTS / FOREWORD & INTRODUCTION

In-between House

So what would be an “authentic” way of making archtecture that is modern and place specific? How does the architect evoke the past without lapsing into ahistorical sentimentality and nostalgia? It is not about easy cutting and pasting to form a montage, some bits new, other bits old. That would be textbook style kitsch. If an ossified return to the old an familiar is inappropriate, then what?

Connection House Fusion

But what from the past does an architect frame to kickstart the defamiliarising process? And who frames what? The Bali phenomenon threw up a political conundrum - who frames the popular vocabulary accepted now as a Balinese style? Is what we accept now as a true Balinese style an imposition of a western concept of Balinese culture roughshod over the real architecture culture of the island? Amanda Achmadi in “The Legacy of (Mis)Identifying Bali writes - “selected architectural elements are framed, visualized and re-ordered into becoming a new architectural subject, an abstract but powerfully ideal and tangible Balinese architecture. While this new subject is persistently asserted and authorized as authentic Balinese architecture, complex architectural culture(s) of the island’s multifaceted society is repressed and displaced.”

Trop I Trop II

From the outset, Pirast Pacharaswate, who helms East Architects has sought a connection with his Thai cultural roots in his architecture. That he is a Thai architect working with traditional Thai architecture presents less of a problem.

Trop III (East V) Open I

But it still has to be said that his mining of the traditional Thai building vocabulary is compelled not by the need to repackage and represent a marketable exotic “otherness”. And his search for a modern Thai architecture steers clear from easy sentimentality or any nationalistic sentiments. The DNA of the Thai vocabulary is spliced with a modern vocabulary not gratuitously but through questions revolving around what cultural continuity means, what responding to climatic determinants means, etc. Embedded in all that is his experiments with tectonics designed and executed with modern technology to breathe new life into age-old ideas.

Open II

The trajectory of his search, as we will discover in the 2nd part of the book, demonstrates a growing confidence with his heritage or what he calls “source”. While his earlier projects displayed a high degree of faithfulness to the traditional vocabulary, his later works hybridise and eventually break free from iconic forms into shapes that vacillate between the familiar and the unfamiliar. Pirast›s refusal to succumb to the glamour of fashionable styles makes his works worth looking out for. The on-going transformations that Pirast makes to his architectural language and vocabulary are thoughtful. He does not ape western trends. He is constantly questioning his Thai identity through architectural synthesis. That we will see the future shape, or at least one of the future shapes of Thai architecture rising from his works is a foregone conclusion.

Left : Easthouse (2010)

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Introduction

In-between House

CONTENTS East House

Connection House

Fusion

Trop I

Trop II

Trop III (East V)

Open I

Open II

6


EAST ARCHITECTURE 1 - 4

2 4

(Location Name / Built Date) Insert Information here

EAST house (Location Name / Built Date) Insert Information here

3 5

Fusion (Location Name / Built Date) Insert Information here

6

1

In-between House

Connection House (Location Name / Built Date) Insert Information here

Trop I (Location Name / Built Date) Insert Information here

TROPICAL ARCHITECTURE

Trop II (Location Name / Built Date) Insert Information here

7

Trop III (EAST V)

9

Open II

(Location Name / Built Date) Insert Information here

OPEN 8 - 9

8

Open I (Location Name / Built Date) Insert Information here

(Location Name / Built Date) Insert Information here

EA ST TR OP OP EN


Introduction

In-between House

In-between House

(Location Name / Built Date) Insert Information here more information

East House Connection House Fusion Trop I Trop II Trop III (East V)

The charm of “In-between House” for the then nascent East Architects lies in its simplicity. There are no fancy touches, just honest expression. The very simplicity of the design, in its form, space, structure and construction gives it both strength and clarity.

Shades of Ando are apparent in this project and this is embodied in the use of raw off-form concrete. But its alliance with the Ando aesthetic stops there. Instead of using raw grey concrete to create planar walls, the architect employed it to make rectangular columns placed perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the respective blocks. The use of pre-cast construction has a cost and time advantage, an advantage he is later to harnass for his own residence in Thonburi.

Schematically, the “In-between house” comprises 2 rectangular blocks placed perpendicular to each other. A front block houses the living and dining room on the 1st storey and guestroom on the 2nd while a rear block contains the living room on the 1st storey and masterbedroom (with en-suite bathroom) on the 2nd.

Spaced apart, the columns form a simple domino-like frame for each pavilion. The porosity of the house is surprising, delightful and completely appropriate for Thailand’s tropical climate. Slide away the glass panels fitted within the concrete frame (a modern interpretation of the traditional timber post and beam structure), and the house becomes totally porous for unimpeded cross-flow of cool air.

A gap separates the 2 blocks. This interstice facilitates negative air pressure build-up to induce wind movement and hence passive cooling. To the architect, this is the key idea, thus explaining the moniker “In-between House”.

Open I Open II

An open to the sky concrete and timber bridge links the 2 blocks. The bridge forces a reckoning with the elements which may be or may not be what the occupants have bargained for. Confronting sun and rain (the latter to be expected in torrents during the wet season) is an inevitability given the open and unsheltered bridge. A philosophical acceptance of the design is somewhat mandatory.

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The greyness of the concrete does not dominate. What that dominate are the voids that let in generous amounts of air and light into the interior. Some of these voids, such as that for the bathrooms, are infilled with -2storey tall (horizontal) timber batten screens. The screens that provides privacy also filter light into the bathrooms. There is delight, not just rational logic. The architect has a penchant for creating sensory uplifts through the shaping of light and shadow; an aspect that he is to return to repeatedly.


Concept

Spaced apart, the columns form a simple domino-like frame for each pavilion. The porosity of the house is surprising, delightful and completely appropriate for Thailand’s tropical climate. Slide away the glass panels fitted within the concrete frame (a modern interpretation of the traditional timber post and beam structure), and the house becomes totally porous for unimpeded cross-flow of cool air. Material

The greyness of the concrete does not dominate. What that dominate are the voids that let in generous amounts of air and light into the interior. Some of these voids, such as that for the bathrooms, are in-filled with -2storey tall (horizontal) timber batten screens. The screens that provides privacy also filter light into the bathrooms. There is delight, not just rational logic. The architect has a penchant for creating sensory uplifts through the shaping of light and shadow; an aspect that he is to return to repeatedly.

Exterior View of the House

Execution

Significantly, this detached house is a starting point for Pirast Patcharasawate’s point of view vis-a-vis the synthesis of vocabularies drawn from both traditional Thai and modern architecture. The steep pitched roof though finished in modern “Neustile” concrete tiles is a distinct derivative of the traditional Thai roof form. Conclusion

His later projects are to incorporate traditional Thai architectural elements, such as the lifting of the superstructure off the ground with stilts to permit air to sweep through below for thermal cooling, more aggressively and literally. But for this house, issues of dealing with the climate with appropriate tectonic choices are more significant than searching for idiomatic cultural lineage.

EA ST TR OP OP EN

9


Introduction

In-between House

East House

Connection House

Fusion

Trop I

Trop II

Trop III (East V)

EAST house exterior view Open I

Open II

10


2

EAST house (Location Name / Built Date) Insert Information here more information

The house the architect builds for himself is frequently the embodiment of his ideals and becomes therefore, the best expression and advertisement of his oeuvre. “East house” (an extension of East Architects name-wise) springs from a raft of intentions that could be formulated into a manifesto. “East House” is unmistakably Thai. The steeply pitched roof even though they are covered with modern clay tiles, even though they come without chofa finials and such, is so Thai you almost expect a set of smaller roofs to telescope from each gable end. Yet instead of solid timber trunks, the roofs are held up by stark pre-cast round concrete columns in rugged grey. Rising to single-storey height for the living room pavilion and double- storey for the bedroom block, these slender columns also echo the grey coconut trunks that encircle the house. Steel “I”-sections span between these columns to carry pre-cast concrete planks. These rugged structural elements, which some may view as anathema to traditional architecture, are expressed with brutal honesty. This is design that celebrates visual complexity with construction joints. Construction strategies and choice of materials are rethought to give a fresh vitality to the reinterpretation Clearly, “East House” frees itself from any slavish reproduction of tradition. It transforms. For example, instead of clustering the “pavilions” and lifting the ensemble onto a platform to create a one-storey undercroft, the house hovers a few feet above ground. The house bears an imprint of the aquatic vocabulary of traditional Thai houses but elements that are no longer relevant are jettisoned.

If enclosure skin and structure tend to be aligned on the same vertical plane in traditional Thai architecture, the architect has opted for a dramatic separation of the two. The enclosure walls (except for the single-storey living room block) vary in porosity depending on the degree of privacy needed. These enclosure walls are pulled back from the structure and sheathed with a variety of glass, metal frames, timber and concrete. Window openings for the concrete walls are designed in tall and narrow proportions, characteristic of fenestrations found in traditional Thai architecture. The depth of the enclosure system is emphasized with deep pre-cast rectangular walls and columns layered perpendicularly to the longitudinal axis of the pavilion – the idea an echo of the same system used for the “In-between House”.

If enclosure skin and structure tend to be aligned on the same vertical plane in traditional Thai architecture, the architect has opted for a dramatic separation of the two. The enclosure walls (except for the single-storey living room block) vary in porosity depending on the degree of privacy needed. These enclosure walls are pulled back from the structure and sheathed with a variety of glass, metal frames, timber and concrete.

EA ST TR OP

11

OP EN


Introduction

In-between House

East House

Connection House

Fusion

Trop I

Trop II

Trop III (East V)

Open I

Open II

12


EA ST TR OP OP EN

13


Introduction In-between House East House Connection House Fusion Trop I Trop II

EAST house (continued)

Trop III (East V) Open I

Window openings for the concrete walls are designed in tall and narrow proportions, characteristic of fenestrations found in traditional Thai architecture. The depth of the enclosure system is emphasized with deep pre-cast rectangular walls and columns layered perpendicularly to the longitudinal axis of the pavilion – the idea an echo of the same system used for the “In-between House”.

Open II

With its structure and enclosure systems, the architecture layers a range of luminosity into the depth of the house. Harsh tropical light is tempered by the architecture to give delight. Instead of a straightforward roof eave termination with a fascia board, edges of the roof are dissolved into skeletal timber frames designed to cast strips of shadows across the ground and the walls. Sunshades are filigreed in a similar manner, to cut out glare and to give form to sunlight filtering into the house. Because of the generous roof overhangs, shadows are deep but because of the porosity of the house, the quality of the light in the house is not gloomy.

These deep overhangs detailed into the roof design while they celebrate form are done also in deference to the tropical climate. They reduce the amount of heat penetrating into the interior. Chief among the architect’s care-list is thermal comfort. Tropicality in lived-in terms is important to his designs. Far more potent are the interstitial gaps placed in between pavilions. Like its predecessor, the “Inbetween House”, the “pavilions” of “East House” are separated by narrow interstices. Predicated to work via air movement between positive and negative air pressure that results from juxtaposing small gaps and large spaces, the pavilions are placed relative to each other in a way to create wind funnels thus facilitating passive cooling. The gaps also scale down the mass of the house while providing a sense of the kinesthetic: a sense of change as one progresses from space to space through the complex of pavilions. Traversed by platforms or bridges, they amplify the indoor-outdoor relationship that is so fundamental to tropical architecture. This house functions adequately without the modern panacea of air-conditioning. It is a climatic filter that puts the occupants in touch with nature, by the latter we mean more than a view of placid ponds and alluring greenery from the bathtub Aman-style. The architect has chosen to integrate the experience of nature by locating the main staircase at the side of the house, covered from the sky, but open on the side and the master-bathroom is separated from the master-bedroom with an open-to-the-sky deck. It promises a splashing wet walk from one part of the house to another on days when tropical storms are unforgiving. This is a repeat of an idea the architect first developed for the “in-between house”.


This house marries lessons from tradition with modern construction methods, all acutely tempered with a sensitivity to climate and phenomenology – from the use of passive cooling to the predominant use of timber for the interior – to provide for the well-being and delight of the occupants. It keeps tradition alive, kicking and very relevant to the here and now.

EA ST TR OP

15

OP EN


Introduction In-between House East House

3

Connection House Fusion Trop I Trop II

Connection House (Location Name / Built Date)

Trop III (East V)

At first glance, “Connection House” comprising 2 houses looks like it is floating on a platform the way traditional Thai courtyard houses do. On closer inspection, it is revealed that the houses sit on the ground and are joined by a deck. The composition may not be a facsimile of the vernacular model but the source is clear.

Open I

This floating deck that connects the 2 houses is graced with a swimming pool, the shared garage elegantly tucked below the pool. To underscore the importance of the swimming pool joint, the architect lavished it with an elaborately designed steel and timber seating platform.

Open II

The body of water serves as a sparkling and alluring central element that divides and unites the 2 households. On closer inspection of the plan, it becomes apparent that the swimming pool despite its central location is but one of three centres. Each house revolves around its own central courtyard . The plan of each house is reminiscent of a mandala diagram - it appears as a 9 square grid with the center square left as a void to form the courtyard. The courtyards allow the houses to breathe. Buried in the plan of the respective houses, they also function as light conduits for the tightly clustered rooms.

For the purpose of unity, the architect capped the respective roofs of the 2 houses with a similar roof design and aligned both along a longitudinal axis. But instead of designing the 2 houses as mirror reflections of each other, the architect went for dynamic symmetry to give each house its own identity and to give the long façade along the road variety. For example, the staircase of the house on the left is recessed away from the front façade while the staircase of the house on the right is expressed as a stone-clad box fenestrated with a big opening, the latter infilled with timber louver windows. The modern glass boxes planted into the road facade, one for each house, are also detailed differently.

It is tempting to connect the schema of the house plan with the plans of traditional Khmer monuments that are predicated on axial integration of sub-centers with a center. The ambition for the “Connection House” is however not about finding such lofty lineage. The spatial relationship of centre and sub-centres serves the private and communal needs of the multi generational family needs through a hierachy of spaces.


For the purpose of unity, the architect capped the respective roofs of the 2 houses with a similar roof design and aligned both along a longitudinal axis. But instead of designing the 2 houses as mirror reflections of each other, the architect went for dynamic symmetry to give each house its own identity and to give the long façade along the road variety. For example, the staircase of the house on the left is recessed away from the front façade while the staircase of the house on the right is expressed as a stone-clad box fenestrated with a big opening, the latter infilled with timber louver windows. The modern glass boxes planted into the road facade, one for each house, are also detailed differently.

The name “Connection House” describes both a physical attribute (the pool as connection) and a metaphor (connection between present and past). East takes a critical stance in forging that connection between present and past How does one quote from tradition and not be swallowed by it into stylistic stasis? Learning from tradition so as to move away from it, paradoxical as it may sound, has been the route of many architects, not least Mies van der Rohe whose starkly modernist boxes are firmly rooted in the classical order. The evolution of a unique East vocabulary is underway with more daring breaks with the past are just around the corner.

The myriad details devised to differentiate the 2 houses run the gamut. An aperture on the front façade infilled with timber fretwork is particularly arresting. Elsewhere, a variety of window designs, horizontal timber battens, wood paneling and vertical stele-like concrete fences impart richly variegated surfaces that engages the eye. Visually heavy dark timber, earthy terracotta tiles and robust grey off-form concrete juxtaposed with smooth plaster walls and glass produce a depth of textural interplay. “Connection House” revisits much of the vocabulary developed for “East House” but adds to it.

EA ST TR OP

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OP EN

East Architects  

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